BY MATTHEW GOGERTY
Drake Softball has now won four games in a row after sweeping a three-game series on the road against the Indiana State Sycamores this weekend, every game ending via mercy rule. The Bulldogs improved to 16-11 on the season and are an undefeated 6-0 in the Missouri Valley Conference.
“Coming away with a 3-0 sweep was awesome,” senior pitcher Mariah McKinnon said. “Playing all of those (games) in five innings was just a confidence booster for the whole team.
Against Indiana State, the Bulldogs held their opponents scoreless twice and racked up a total of 36 runs in 15 innings.
“It was nice having everyone on the team going and that hasn’t happened all the time,” McKinnon said. “We usually only have one or two people that are picking us up and getting those runs, but the whole team was on so that was a good way to start conference within the first two weekends.”
The Bulldogs were able to get a nice lead early on in the first game, scoring six runs in the second inning. Megan Sowa doubled to center to bring home the first three. A two-run home run from Taryn Pena extended the lead.
In the third inning, Sowa was able to bring home two more runs on a double to right field. And a home run from Ashlie Chambers brought the score to 10-4 after the third.
The Bulldogs drove home five more runs in the fifth inning, while the Sycamores scored two. That gave Drake a 15-6 lead, sealing victory.
Sowa continued her power hitting in the second game, starting off with a two-run home run in the first inning.
She went on to hit two more homers in the game and finished with seven RBIs, putting a major spike in opposing pitcher Bailey Benefiel’s ERA.
In her last five games, Sowa is 10-for-18 at the plate with six extra-base hits, four homers, 10 runs, 14 RBIs and a slugging percentage over 1.000. Unsurprisingly, she was named the MVC’s Player of the Week.
Freshmen Kennedy Frank and Taryn Pena both scored twice in the game and had two hits each. Sophomore Kailee Smith had a multi-hit game and an RBI.
Frank was again tabbed as the MVC Newcomer of the Week for the second straight week. Although she’s honored by the award, she tries not letting it affect her mindset.
“I still try to do my best, no matter if I’m not doing so well.”
With pitching from McKinnon and a strong infield presence, the Bulldogs only gave up five hits in the game, ending in a 12-0 victory and McKinnon’s first shutout of the season.
“It felt good for me to get that shutout in, especially at the beginning of conference,” McKinnon said. “(It set) the tone for what I can do in the rest of conference play.”
The third game was a slow start in comparison to the previous two. Both teams went scoreless in the first before the Bulldogs scored one in the second.
Then Sowa established her presence again, hitting a two-run homer in the third inning.
Entering the fourth inning, the Bulldogs were able to regain the momentum at the plate that they had played with throughout the series. They scored five runs in the inning, with three coming off a home run by Frank.
The Bulldogs drove home the last of their nine total runs in the fifth and final inning, while the Sycamores were unable to bring home any, leaving the score at 9-0.
“Once you get going it gets a lot easier to keep going,” Frank said regarding Drake’s explosive hitting.
Pitching alternated between Nicole Newman and Mariah McKinnon for most of the series, with Smith relieving Newman in the final inning of the first game.
Newman pitched a total of nine innings for the series, and McKinnon threw five. Both pitchers recorded a complete game shutout, giving up a total of only seven hits for the final two games.
The Bulldogs are set to take on Southern Illinois at home next weekend in a three-game series.